Winter in Canberra can be, well, brutal. But it also gives us an excuse to…
I’ve been keeping my eye on Renee’s many business ventures over the years, starting with Hooray! Magazine, followed by The Floral Society, then Sugar Deli, Planted and, most recently, The Social Club.
It’s not because my partner bought the HOORAY! business or that I’m much of a sweet tooth, but because I’ve found the development of her branding style across all those initiatives really appealing—clean, modern and distinctive.
Over a year ago, I was attracted to the cool logo on the door of Renee’s The Floral Society in Kingston. Once inside, I started to pick out flower options for my partner and spotted a classic, but very unloved, bike leaning over a stack of boxes.
‘I’ll take a bunch of peonies, some of those green leafy things…and that old bike thanks’.
Renee looked over her shoulder and said ‘Ok, you might as well. I rode it once, I don’t think it has brakes, had to scream at people on the sidewalk to jump out of the way—and haven’t been game to get back on since’.
When I was picking up the bike a week later I did ask Renee whether she would be open to appearing on Home Stories since I was really keen to see how someone with her aesthetic applies it to her home (plus who knows—she may have more cool old bikes there). She said ‘yes’, and a year later, here we are.
You should also know that I ended up restoring that bike, worked out how the brakes work and now I’m the one screaming at people on the sidewalk (but it’s usually with ‘How cool is my bike? It has brakes!’).
I picked up our photographer Bel on a rather cold day and we headed over the Queanbeyan where Renee lives with her husband Glen and daughter Rose. The home is owned by her family who move around their collective homes depending on life stages, needs and need for proximity to the rest of the relatives. You have to admit this is a great idea, and if my family wasn’t just my parents and I, I would totally sign up for this family home lottery.
Before moving in, Renee renovated the interior of the traditional orange brick lined home to bring it into her taste.
“You know Ashley, there’s our woggy and there’s the woggy of the previous generation,” she said.
Having a European background, I completely know what Renee is referring to—the generational difference being lots of crystal in heavy wooden cabinets, thick curtains, brass chandeliers and a special living room that nobody was allowed to use (and most likely containing furniture covered in plastic, too).
That style has a real charm to it and it reminds me of my grandmother’s place, which was always filled with the smell of freshly-made poppy seed cake. But the main advantage of this new take on interior styling is that the entire home is made for living with ease, comfort and personal style. As Renee put it “There is no ‘special’ room because every room is for the everyday.”
We hadn’t moved beyond the hallway, but I knew the style presented in Renee’s businesses was indeed extended to her home. Lots of white surfaces, pale floorboards, rose and pink tones as highlights (including the awesome ‘Til Death neon), lush sofas and pillows, all complemented by dark décor elements and Hamptons-inspired panels. Despite having a two-year-old, the place is clutter-free, modern and distinctive.
“It’s a style that I find very comforting. Being reserved in what you own and how you put elements together gives that visual space rather than clutter,” said Renee. Of course, it takes time to find your own style and Renee recalls that she was not always like that.
“When I lived alone in an apartment, the place was filled with contrasts and all sorts of different visually-competing things, but over time I listened to what made me calmer and happier.”
Even though there’s not going to be a pop quiz at the end of this story, I will labour one point that I feel is important. Interior styling is an ongoing process that evolves as you change. After reading our Home Stories series, many of you have mentioned that the inspiration you find in other people’s homes helps you to define your future home. And that’s perfect, but don’t forget to be happy with what you have now and enjoy the gradual change.
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Home Stories is brought to you in partnership with Canberra Centre.
Photography by Bel Combridge.